Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Cheapskate Horrorshow
Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween. 

It goes without saying that we in the Monster Shop love Hammer Films.
The poster
The Studio From Across The Big Pond turned out some undisputed classics in the world of horror and presented Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing to the world.  Today I'm taking a look at a film that's not as well-known as their Frankenstein and Dracula cycles, but is still a great suspense film nonetheless (something Hammer was also known for in their native England).  The film is Night Creatures, released in England as Captain Clegg.

The story of this film actually comes from a series of novels that began in 1915, written by Russell Thorndike, about Doctor Syn, a vicar from the village of Dymchurch who pursues revenge after his wife is seduced by his best friend.  In the course of his adventures Syn turns to piracy and becomes the most feared pirate of his day.  Upon his eventual return to Dymchurch, Syn takes leadership of the local smuggling ring (which is operating against a corrupt government) and takes on the identity of the ghostly Scarecrow Of Romney Marsh to protect the people of Dymchurch.  Much of this may be remembered by Disney fans as the story of the film Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow, which also came from these novels.
The Disney version

The bad guys, and the badder guys...
Night Creatures opens with a crewman mutilated and left to die by notorious (and unseen) pirate Captain Clegg, as punishment for the rape and murder of Clegg's wife. (Nope, not very Disney.)  Several years later, the officious and by-the-book Captain Collier of the Royal Navy (Patrick Allen) is assigned to investigate reports of "Marsh Phantoms" in Romney Marsh, as well as enforce the excise tax on liquor trades there.  After discovering the dead body of a local townie named Ketch (Sydney Bromley, who dies of fright after being run down by said Marsh Phantoms), Collier begins throwing his weight around, which makes the townspeople very unhelpful in his quest for justice.  (This is one of those byproducts of having your local businesses seized and searched by unruly soldiers.)  The only person who treats Collier with any civility is the local parson, Dr. Blyss (Peter Cushing), who turns out to be the leader of the local smuggling ring, and cue the highjinks.  Said highjinks include the question of whether or not Captain Clegg is really dead (there's a grave in Dymchurch, and someone's in it, but still...), a deafmute in the employ of Collier, who goes nuts whenever he's around Parson Blyss (I'll leave
Participants in the obligatory romance
you to connect the dots on this one) and the obligatory love story between townie beauty Imogene (Yvonne Romain) and favorite son Harry Cobtree (Oliver Reed) which is endangered by Mr. Rash (Martin Benson), the jealous cohort of Parson Blyss.  And of course, there's the ongoing mystery of those pesky Marsh Phantoms.

The Marsh Phantoms
If you're used to Hammer being the home of horror, then this film is an introduction to some of Hammer's other output; in addition to horror, Hammer also produced comedies and thrillers like this one.  Night Creatures isn't a horror film in the traditional sense, but it is a suspenseful Gothic film with a bit of supernatural dressing, and the very busy if somewhat convoluted plotline keeps you interested in what's going to happen next.  Most modern horror films have eschewed this for buckets of gore and creative death, so if you're interested in seeing some old-fashioned ghostly mystery this Halloween, Night Creatures is a good place to start.

Join us again for The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, coming soon...

MAD DOCTOR'S NOTE: Night Creatures is available in The Hammer Horror Series 8-Film Collection, which is available here.


Hello, everybody!  This is Frankie Franken with the next installment of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and I hope that so far it's been a happy one for you!

The poster (1932)
These days, people are doing all kinds of remakes of stuff, whether it's movies or TV shows, and this is  happening in horror films too.  Recently there were remakes of both Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th, and even though there's a lot of demand for original content, Hollywood still keeps doing remakes.  Today we'll take a look at a recently rediscovered classic horror film, The Old Dark House, which was originally made in 1932 by James Whale, who directed Frankenstein and The Bride Of Frankenstein.  This same film was remade in 1963 by horror auteur William Castle, who directed 13 Ghosts and The House On Haunted Hill (both of which got remakes, too!).

Horace and Rebecca Femm:  There's one in every family...
The Old Dark House is the film that more or less invented the "old dark house" genre of horror movies, and has a lineage that includes such diverse films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and certainly more than one episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You!  Three travelers, Philip and Margaret Waverton (Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart) and their friend Roger Penderel (Melvyn Douglas) are caught in a rainstorm and arrive at a remote, decaying old mansion looking for shelter.  The house belongs to the Femms, a family of recluses that seems more than a little crazy.  The Femm family includes craven, fearful Horace (Ernest Thesiger), his fanatical sister Rebecca (Eva Moore), their mute butler Morgan (Boris Karloff) and their brother Saul (Brember Wills) who spends most of the film locked in the attic.  The Femms are reluctant to entertain the travelers, but bring them out of the storm
...but in this one there's several: Morgan Femm and Margaret Waverton
anyway.  Soon, Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton) and his mistress Gladys DuCane Perkins (Lillian Bond) arrive at the house, which seems to make the Femms behave even more strangely.  Things come to a head when Morgan, who is unfortunately alcoholic, gets drunk and releases Saul, who turns out to be a psychopath and a pyromaniac.

Upon its release in 1932, TODH was not well reviewed.  Although most New York reviewers praised the film for its wealth of talent (including horror luminaries Karloff, Thesiger and Laughton), the film was panned by Variety and The Hollywood Filmograph, and suffered negative word-of-mouth.  For several years it was considered a lost film, until a print was found in the Universal Studios vaults in 1968 and restored.  Today it is considered a cult film and enjoys a reputation as an interesting landmark in the career of director James Whale.

The poster (1963)
In 1963, William Castle remade The Old Dark House as a joint effort with Universal Studios and Hammer Films, starring Tom Poston, Mervyn Johns, Robert Morley, Janette Scott and Fenella Fielding.  The remake deviates from the original in many ways: apart from being in color, the remake is the story of Tom Penderel (Poston), an American car salesman traveling in London who delivers a car to an old mansion in Dartmoor, the family home of his eccentric roommate Casper Femm (Peter Bull) who has told Tom that he must return to the mansion each night before midnight.  Upon arriving, the car is damaged in a storm and Tom is invited to stay at the Femm house, where he meets Jasper, Casper's twin brother (also Bull), his two nieces Cecily (Scott) and Morgana (Fielding), gun-obsessed father Roderick (Morley) and Uncle Potiphar (Johns) who is building an ark in anticipation of another Great Flood.  Though initially frightened upon discovering that Casper is dead, Tom is attracted to Cecily, and ends up staying the night.  Tom is drawn into the Femms' weird world and soon discovers himself in the midst of a murder plot against the Femms, where someone is attempting to gain the family estate by killing all the living heirs.

Tom finds a fiend
Poston, Scott and Morley
TODH '63 is considered inferior to TODH '32, despite the fact that TODH '32 was kind of an oddball film all its own.  Though the stories are basically variations on the theme of outsider trapped in an old house with strange people, I think TODH '63 has a few merits of its own.  The macabre comedy is played up, bringing a kind of Addams Family feel to the picture (the film's credits even feature drawings by Addams himself!), and the actors for TODH '63 were pretty talented too: Morley was a well-known and established actor in film and theatre, Johns was a distinctive character actor in England who was known for his Bob Cratchit to Alastair Sim's Scrooge, Poston was a noted comic actor in both film and TV, and Fielding was a popular actress who had appeared in several films, most notably to horror fans in the comedy Carry On Screaming.  All in all, TODH '63 is a very different film, and shouldn't be judged for its connection to the original.  The Mad Doctor said this about the Dark Shadows movie, if you'll remember, and I kind of feel the same thing is going on here.  So if you're interested in seeing either (or both) of these films, they're worthy additions to your viewing experience, especially at this time of the year.

Well, that's it for me, and I'll see you soon.  Come back for the next installment of our Thir13en for Halloween!

Francesca "Frankie" Franken

MAD DOCTOR'S NOTE: Both versions of
The Old Dark House are available from Amazon and Netflix.  Check them out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Cheapskate Horrorshow
The poster
Welcome back to today's edition of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13een For Halloween.  Today we're cranking up the Cheapskate Horrorshow to present a review of the movie Ouija.

In 2012, a movie called Battleship was released, loosely based on "the classic board game."  When Hollywood is willing to mine board games for movie ideas, you know something's wrong, but the notion was enthusiastically received among some of the suits, and rumors of movies based on such games as Monopoly and Candy Land began to circle.  (It was only because common sense prevailed that no one mentioned Scrabble: The Quest For the Triple Word Score.)  Horror movies, however, don't really have anything except... the Ouija board.  So, cue short history lesson:

"Weird" William Fuld and his equally weird sister Katherine
Ouija boards, or "talking boards" as they were once known, have been around since the 1890's, when the Spiritualist movement began to rise in America.  As Spiritualists attempted to communicate with the Great Beyond, businessman Elijah Bond had the idea to package together a planchette (a device used for automatic writing) and a board with the full alphabet and numbers on it, so that Spiritualists would have a better way of communicating.  Bond's employee William Fuld took over production and eventually started his own production of these boards under the name "Ouija," which Fuld claimed was an Egyptian word meaning "good luck" that he got from using the board to communicate with a spirit.  (Actually, it's the French word "oui" and the German word "ja," both of which mean "yes," put together to create "oui-ja.")  Fuld eventually sold the business to Parker Brothers (now owned by Hasbro, which actually has a film division who is responsible for this movie) and it wasn't long before Ouija boards were terrorizing parlor gatherings and slumber parties everywhere.

Neither the MonsterGrrls nor the Monster Shop advocate use of Ouija boards (Punkin has stated that they "don't even make a good cheese-cuttin' board"), and this movie is, in part, a whole series of reasons why. Opening with a flashback of best friends Debbie (Shelley Hening) and Laine (Olivia Cooke) playing with an Ouija, we learn Rule One of Ouija Use: do not play alone.

Debbie, who is sweet but stupid
Shortly after, we move to the present, where Debbie is seen burning an Ouija board in the fireplace.  After turning down an offer of a night out from Laine, Debbie is possessed by an evil spirit and forced to commit suicide in her home, meaning that Rule One is often the first to be broken (at least in horror movies).  Laine, not believing that Debbie committed suicide of her own volition, recruits friends Isabelle (Bianca Santos) and Trevor (Daren Kasagoff), little sister Sarah (Ana Coto) and Debbie's grieving boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith) to investigate the house, where they find the mysteriously unburnt Ouija board.  Deciding to contact Debbie for one last goodbye, Laine and crew instead contact something else, which starts leaving them messages... and not through the Ouija board.  Trying to shut things down, Laine is instead exposed to a deeper mystery involving the previous owners of the house and the Ouija board, which leads to her friends dying one by one and a race against time to solve the mystery behind Debbie's death and stop the evil spirits before everyone is dead.

Again, like Stay Alive (which we previously reviewed here), Ouija involves college-age protagonists rather
Debbie's stupid friends, trying to contact stupid dead Debbie
than teens, which seems to be a trend in horror movies of this age.  Unlike that movie, no one receives much character beyond Laine (who, though typically morose, is the heroine and cannot be one-dimensional by default), Sarah (who grinds the rebellious-teen archetype into our faces each scene, as if the audience cannot be bothered to figure it out) and victim Debbie, who seems to be an all-round good girl (which is meant to make her death much more tragic, but instead just makes you wonder why she started using the board in the first place).  The movie is not particularly unpleasant or boring, and moves briskly along plotwise, working its elements in as it goes and making the most of its mystery.  But do not expect to be overtly terrified; this movie is not Grand Guignol horror.  What you've got here instead is a nice Halloween-friendly potboiler that you can throw in the DVD player or stream after a trick-or-treat session.  (And of course, we do not advise using an Ouija board during the movie.  If you're that bored with it, turn the DVD off and play cards or something.)

Don't forget to come back for our next installment of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween!


Hey, y'all, and welcome to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween!  This here is Petronella Nightshade, what am Punkin, postin to you through this here blog.  Us will be bringin you all kinds of things and first one thing and then another, so be sure you are keepin up with us.  Today I am doin the Easy-Bake Coven, and bringin you a recipe for Injun Corn.  It ain't actual Injun, but that is all right.

A lot of folks make them crispy rice cereal treats around Halloween, what is crispy rice cereal and butter and marshmallows all mixed up together.  This here is somethin like that, but it uses that peanut butter and chocolate puffed-up cereal, and it put me to mind of what Sam the scarecrow who lives down the hollow from us in Witchhazel is doin with popcorn, which is growin ears of popcorn what's already popped, and some of em even got butter.  Don't ask me how he does it cause I don't know, but anyway, this is somethin that's pretty good for your young ones at Halloween.  Harriet specially liked it cause she loves peanut butter and chocolate.

What's In It:
1/4 cup of butter or margarine (for pers'nal preference, I like butter best, and it's about half a stick)
1 package (10 1/2 ounces) mini-marshmallows
Some yellow food coloring (I like that gel colorin, cause it gives better color and don't have no funny taste)
8 cups of peanut butter and chocolate puffed corn cereal
1 cup candy-coated chocolate pieces (like M&Ms), divided in half
10 lollipop sticks (you can find this at craft stores and such)
Some tan and green raffia (this here is at the craft store too)

What You Got To Do:
Line up a large bakin sheet with waxed paper and set it aside.  You won't be bakin nothin, but you'll need this to set the corn on, and the wax paper will keep it from stickin to the sheet.

Melt up your butter in a cauldron or a big heavy saucepan over low heat on the stove.  Add your marshmallows to it and stir it up till it's all melted and smooth.  Tint this with your food colorin until you get the shade of yellow you want, and then add your cereal and 1/2 cup of your chocolate pieces.  Stir this all up until it's evenly coated, then take it off the heat.

Butter or grease up your hands and divide this mixture up into 10 oblong pieces.  You got to work quick afore it cools down too much.  Stick a lolly stick about halfway into each piece, and then shape em up like ears of corn.  Place em on your bakin sheet and press the rest of your chocolate pieces into each ear.  Let em set a while, then tie or tape the raffia to the lolly sticks so it looks like a corn husk.  If you want some variation in the chocolate part, you can use the ones that's got peanuts* in em (I like those), and they is makin a lot of other kinds now, such as ones that got pretzel bits or crispy rice bits in em.  Just do as you like.

And that's it.  I shall be bringin you some more recipes as we are goin along, and I hope you try some of em and have some fun with em.  Come back round for what we shall be doin next with The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and blessings be on you!

Petronella "Punkin" Nightshade

*SPECIAL NOTE: Some little ones has got peanut allergies, so if you are thinkin of makin these for a young ones' party, ask round the other mamas afore you do them.  We don't want nobody goin to the hospital on Halloween.  Unless it's an old abandoned hospital what used to be a mental asylum and someone's throwin a party there.  Course, that might be somethin else altogether.  --P.N.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Cheapskate Horrorshow
So here we are again on The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween.

The poster
I admit to not being much of a video game fan.  When I was younger I had an Atari, and that was pretty cool, but video games were something I just sort of outgrew quickly, as I was more interested in making things with a computer rather than playing things on it.  With so many horror video games being released now, it makes sense that the Hollywood horror contingent would eventually turn to making a horror film about video games, which brings us rather neatly to our Cheapskate Horrorshow review of Stay Alive, a not-well-received but nonetheless interesting little film.  (Note: I viewed the Director's Cut for this review, and it is suggested that you view this one also.  I'll get to why in a minute.)

Stay Alive opens with the murder of Loomis Crowley (Milo Ventimiglia) and his roommate and roommate's girlfriend by an unseen killer, shortly after playing an unreleased video game called "Stay Alive."  This game is passed on at Loomis's funeral to his best friend and fellow gamer Hutch (Jon Foster) who plays the game in
From gamer's glory to lamely gory
a session with Abigail (Samaire Armstrong), a photographer he meets at the funeral, and his other gamer friends: the brother-sister team of foul-mouthed Phineas (Jimmi Simpson) and goth-wanna-blessed-be October (Sophia Bush), overcommitted and undersocialized gaming freak Swink (Frankie Muniz) and his boss Miller, who joins them online from his office.  They discover that the game will not start until all who are playing have recited an incantation called "The Prayer Of Elizabeth" which leads them into a mad revenant-killing spree on an old plantation.  Miller is killed in the game, and calls it a night, but shortly afterward is murdered in the exact same manner that his game character was, and cue the mayhem.  In a series of events that is purest Scooby-Doo, the gang discovers that the game is based on the exploits of the real-life murderess Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who somehow survived the centuries and turned up in Louisiana (like you do) continuing her exploits by running a girls' school/virgin-blood-donor farm.  Also, the spirit of Bathory is quite active... and coming after all of them.

Bathory, in all her bathos
Now, the reason I say watch the Director's Cut is this:  though the movie is pleasantly entertaining by-the-numbers supernatural-stalker horror (nothing you've not seen before, but nothing new under the sun either), the Director's Cut has a very crucial character and subplot that was apparently cut out of the theatrical release, which unfortunately ends up destroying any sense this movie might make if you don't see those parts.  It's entirely possible that this is why Stay Alive received rather negative reviews upon its release.  Still, if you view this cut (available from Netflix and most of the usual online sources), the movie itself turns out to be fairly decent, though a few of the subplots appear to be tacked on and the brother-sister relationship between Phin and October doesn't feel fully developed.  Stay Alive falls into the same category as more recent horror films like The Cabin In The Woods and Valentine: that of "young adult" or "college-age" horror rather than the "teenage" horror of films such as the Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th oeuvres.  Mostly this means that you can expect less mad partying and more recreational drug use between violent kills.  The killer-video-game idea, while not necessarily innovative, is serviceable, and the use of the Elizabeth Bathory legend is one that's not been seen much in horror.  Another good movie to watch with friends and popcorn.

So keep tuned to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween.  We'll be back soon...

Stay Alive is available from, Netflix, and other  video rental/online  streaming services.  The Monster Shop strictly advises viewing the Director's Cut of the film.  Check it out.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Punkin's Easy-Bake Coven
Howdy there!  This here is Petronella Nightshade, what am Punkin, and welcome to this year’s MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween.  Today I am doin the Easy-Bake Coven, which will be givin you some recipes and such that you can try at home for the season. 

Most mamas out there will be wantin to give their young’uns a good supper on Halloween night before everbody goes out for tricks and treats, so they won’t fill up on all that candy and everythin.  Also, some of you who is throwin Halloween parties might want a good meal to serve your guests, so I am startin off with a recipe for y’all that is a crackerjack.  This is called Harvest Moon Stew, and it’ll fill you up and keep the cold out on a chilly fall evenin.

What You Need:
Harvest Moon Stew
2 frozen chicken breasts what has been took off the bone or ain’t got no bone, and what has been skinned (deboned, boneless or skinless)
1 can of rotel tomatoes
1 can of kernel corn, with the juice (undrained)
1 can of black beans, with the juice (undrained)
1 block of cream cheese (1 16-ounce box or two 8-ounce boxes)
1 packet of dry Ranch dip mix (use your favorite)
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of onion powder or bottled onion juice

What You Got To Do:
This here is cooked up in a crock pot, which is a contraption what works a lot like a witch’s kettle except it’s got electricity so you ain’t got to build a fire under it, and it’s a lot easier to carry around.  Start by layerin all the ingredients in the order we listed them in the crockpot, set the dial to High and let it cook for about six hours.  You can cut back your time a little if you’re usin thawed-out chicken, and as everythin starts breakin down, give it a stir now and again durin the cookin time.  This makes a real good smell when it’s cookin.

When the time is up, take the chicken out (lettin all the good stuff on it drip back in the pot) and shred it up.  Put it all back in the pot, stir it up together good, and then serve it over cooked rice or noodles.  If you’re servin this at a party you better make up a lot and stand back cause there’s goin to be a run on it.

And that is all there is to it, and my ain’t it a simple one to be startin with.  If you’re used to cookin in a crock pot you might think you ain’t done much of a much the first time you try it, but it’s a mighty good chew that tastes like you spent forever and a day on it.  Y’all be sure you come back for our next postin in The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, cause we’re startin up early this year and you know it’s always first one thing and then another with us when Halloween time rolls around.  Blessings be on you!

Petronella “Punkin” Nightshade

MAD DOCTOR’S NOTE:  The MonsterGrrls give special thanks to Paul Brown, who shared this recipe with us.

Sunday, September 06, 2015


Cheapskate Horrorshow

Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, and today Cheapskate Horrorshow is covering one of the Monster Shop’s favorite modern horror films, I Sell The Dead, the debut film of Irish director Glenn McQuaid. 

The poster
Though it is a modern horror film, ISTD is a period film set in the Victorian era.  The film opens on the execution day of grave robbers Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) and his accomplice Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan, he of Lost fame).  While Grimes is dispatched quickly, Arthur is visited in his cell by one Father Duffy (Ron Perlman, doing a scene-chewing Irish brogue) who wishes to record a statement from Arthur to be used as a cautionary tale.

The scruffy pair, being scruffy
Arthur recounts his career of grave robbing with Willie, which begins in his youth and goes on to fruitful but stagnant fulfillment under the continual threat of blackmail from Dr. Quint (Angus “Tall Man” Scrimm of Phantasm fame), who is using the pair to gain corpses for illegal medical study.    

Things take a turn for the better when the two dig up and release a vampire, which leads to the pair deciding to become supernatural-based grave robbers, a new apprentice/love interest for Arthur, Fanny Briars (Brenda Cooney) and a confrontation with a group of vicious grave robbers known as House Murphy, consisting of disfigured assassin Valentine (Heather Bullock), insane enforcer Bulger (Alisdair Stewart) and their brutal leader Cornelius (John Speredakos).  Under orders from their unseen leader Samuel, House Murphy tries to dissuade the Blake/Grimes team, leading to an eventual confrontation over a shipment of crated undead… and things go mightily awry, because zombies.

All in an evening's work
The cast responds to news of a possible ISTD reboot
I Sell The Dead is a fast-moving and funny movie which recalls the days of Hammer Films’ period shockers, while at the same time being a loving sendup of same.  For a low-budget B-picture, it seems to get the Victorian period right simply by not trying very hard; all the sets, props and costuming have a good feel of hard use and squalor rather than high polish.  Sight gags and anachronistic humor abound; one standout bit of dialogue in particular involves Arthur’s sampling of a new invention called the sandwich (“it’s genius”).  Monaghan and Fessenden are the perfect pair of seedy but sympathetic rascals, and the assorted Murphy clan provide a nice punch of comic-book villainy (helped in no small way by the use of comic-art illustrations in their introductory scene).  The DVD even includes a mini-comic that tells the movie’s story, and special features include commentaries with Monaghan, Fessenden and director McQuaid, plus visual effects and making-of reels.  Give this one a try for Halloween viewing if you want something more modern yet still reminiscent of horror’s gory-glory days.

Be sure to return for our next installment of The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, and don’t forget to tell the others…

I Sell The Dead is available from and most video rental/online streaming services.  Check it out.